NU, area schools opt of earthquake drill

Jia You

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As thousands of students across Illinois hide under desks during an imaginary earthquake at 10:15 a.m. Thursday, Northwestern students will be taking notes in their lecture halls as usual.

The University will not participate in The Great Central U.S. Shakeout, an earthquake drill across 11 states in the Midwest. Schools in Districts 65 and 202 are also missing from the participant list, which includes 11 universities and 294 K-12 schools in Illinois.

U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan and Department of Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano urged K-12 schools and universities across the central U.S. to participate in the drill in an April 19 press release.

“As the recent earthquakes in American Samoa, Haiti, New Zealand, Chile and now Japan remind us, earthquakes can strike at any time,” said Secretary Napolitano in the press release. “Learning how to protect yourself and your loved ones in the event of an earthquake or other disaster is a vital life skill.”

However, Tom Janetske, emergency preparedness manager of Evanston, said an earthquake is not a major concern for the city.

“We’re on the farthest northern reach of an earthquake,” Janetske said. “If we were located in central Illinois or southern Illinois we would definitely be participating and we’d probably be conducting more regular safety drills.”

Instead of specific drills, the city adopts an “all-hazard approach” to emergency preparedness training by regularly conducting talks about various emergency scenarios in schools, Janetske said.

“Whether it be about a tornado, or an earthquake, severe weather events or even a manmade disaster, the preparedness for all those events is the same,” he said.

However, some NU students said the University is not sufficiently preparing them for emergency situations.

“We haven’t really done much to prepare students for natural disasters,” said Becky Lang, a Communication sophomore. “But at the same time, most of us come from some areas of the country where we’ve learned at home, so maybe the University is going from that standpoint.”

Clement Stokes, director of emergency management at the University, said he had not heard of the earthquake drill.